Duel of the Ironfist, also known as The Duel is a 1971 Shaw Brothers Martial Arts Movie directed by Chang Cheh, starring Ti Lung and David Chiang, respectively as the son of a high-ranking mob leader and said mob leader's best hitman.
Its 1930s China, and the aftermath of a gang war left Tang Ren-jie (Ti Lung) and Tang Ren-lin (Ku Feng) as the heirs of a mob family after their father was assassinated. But with the rival gang hot on their trails, both brothers are forced to lay low, with Lin taking over their father's position to act as scapegoat for his brother, Jie to flee. With the help of their father's most trusted henchman / assassin, Chiang "The Rambler" (David Chiang), Jie managed to settle down with his long-time girlfriend Butterfly, but later on Jie discovers the true circumstances of his father's death. Everything else can only lead to a bloody, violent conclusion for Jie and Chiang...
This is notably one of the many old films which serves as inspiration for John Woo, and can be summed up as Heroic Bloodshed, but with knives. The typical elements are there, including bromance and male bonding between the two male leads, epic action sequences where the two leads takes on legions and legions of extras, a huge onscreen death toll, and gore. Loads and loads of gore.
The films include the following tropes:
- An Ax To Grind: More than one character in the film use axes as weapons to hack up everything that gets into their way during fight scenes.
- Badass in a Nice Suit: Chiang the Rambler, who have at least 4 fight scenes in a suave black suit, complete with tie.
- Battle in the Rain: Subverted, the final battle takes place after a heavy rain. The amount of water puddles and slippery mud is what makes the fight difficult.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Jie and his sidekick, Hsiao. And then Jie with Chiang after Hsiao's death.
- Buried Alive: Nearly happens to Jie, who was near-unconscious from being tortured and brutally beaten up, and already wrapped in a funeral shroud by a small band of mooks and about to be dumped into a freshly dug grave. But Chiang arrives just in time to bail him out.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: One scene had Jie captured alive and subjected to being whipped repeatedly.
- Dead Sidekick: Hsiao, Jie's sidekick and protege. At least he get a last I Regret Nothing speech before expiring.
- Driven to Suicide: Jie's lover, Butterfly, stabs herself in the gut to prevent herself from being taken alive.
- Dying Smirk: Chiang, after being mortally wounded. Although he's still alive (but barely) when the credits roll.
- Enemy Mine: Jie eventually discovers Chiang is his father's real killer, with an agenda of his own, but when a small army of mooks arrives to kill the two they have to set aside their vendetta to fight together.
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: By the end of the movie, every named character is dead except Jie and Chiang. Even then, both of them are mortally wounded and too far away from any allies who can possibly help them, and its implied they will both succumb in a few minutes.
- Eye Scream: A mob leader at one point gets both his eyes burned out by a friggin' blowtorch.
- Faceless Goons: Face it, during the big fight scenes, the only way to tell which side are rival mobsters, and which side are Redshirts on Jie and Chiang's sides, would be by the colour of their clothing, either white or black.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Chiang and Jie, after taking down legion after legion of mooks sent to kill them.
- Gorn: Plenty of these shows up throughout. By the time you see the 105th extra gushing his blood all over the place you'd be quite numb from all the violence.
- High-Pressure Blood: Almost every onscreen death is accompanied by a small geyser of red sauce. In the film itself, this was achieved by having the actors / stuntmen hide condoms filled with fake blood under their clothing, and then squeezing them (using camera tricks to hide the prop) creating the illusion of blood gushing from their wounds.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Butterfly, Jie's girlfriend.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: What finally took down Chiang, is a pointed bamboo stick shoved through his back, coming out of his torso.
- I Owe You My Life: This is the reason why Jie is reluctant to kill Chiang even though Chiang was his father's killer.
- Knife Nut: Practically every single named character, but especially Chiang, who is a devil with throwing knives. In one scene he flings six knives (three on each hand) at the same time, and successfully takes down six mooks.
- Let's You and Him Fight: One scene near the end have Jie battling Gan, the traitor who arranged his father's death, and Gan's mooks. A few mooks tried to flee, only for Chiang to block their escape and tell them to go back into battle.
- Mercy Kill: Chiang, after being mortally wounded by impalement, tells Jie to avenge his father's death by pulling the bamboo pole he's impaled on out of his back.
- Multi-Melee Master: Chiang. Throughout the film he's seen using knives (both for stabbing and throwing), axes, a garrote, a chain, a bamboo staff and even pistols.
- Mutual Kill: In the finale, Chiang and Jie have killed off majority of the mooks arriving to kill them until the last two. One of them manage to, in his last moments, shove a pointed pole through Chiang's back, where Chiang manage to fling a knife into the mook's side as he falls. Jie hacks down the second and last mook with an axe, but said mook manage to stab Jie in the torso before he falls.
- One-Man Army: Chiang and Jie have no problems fighting legions and legions of extras by themselves. Jie during the whorehouse battle, and Chiang when rescuing Jie in the cemetery battle. Subverted when they're forced to work together, at which point they're a Two Men Army.
- The "Fun" in "Funeral": The first action scene of the movie is Jie and Chiang, and their legion of Redshirts, crashing the funeral of a rival mob boss and killing everyone present.
- Sacrificial Lion: Jie's brother, Lin, in a moment of Heroic Sacrifice. See also Dead Sidekick above.
- The Scapegoat: Jie's brother, Lin, ultimately decides to take the position of their deceased father and allow himself to become the target of hordes and hordes of rival gangs, so that Jie may escape.
- Simple Staff: Jie and Chiang in the finale, fighting each other with bamboo poles non-lethally. They're not trying to actively kill each other ( even though Jie had at that point knew Chiang killed his father), just a final face-off to prove who is the better fighter... but then a legion of mooks arrives intending to kill them both.
- Slashed Throat: Many, many faceless mooks dies in this way. Jie even lampshades this early in the movie, telling Hsiao the best way to kill an enemy is by going for the jugular.Jie: "If you want to make sure they're dead, you should go for the throat. (A wounded but Not Quite Dead thug lunges forward, and Jie finish him off by slashing his throat) See what I mean?"
- Step into the Blinding Fight: The restaurant fight scene in the second act is made complicated by a mook suddenly shorting the fuse of the building, landing the whole place into pitch-black darkness. It's in this scene where Chiang turns on his benefactor, Jie's father, and kills him with a garotte.
- Tattoo as Character Type: Jie's defining character moment is the butterfly tattoo that covers his entire chest, dedicated to his girlfriend. Said tattoo is visible throughout the first half of the movie because Jie really likes to expose his bare chest and the camera lingers a lot on his pecs◊.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Jie, for 80% of the movie. Even in the first scene where he's wearing a coat, he's not wearing an undershirt either, exposing his abs all the time.
- We ARE Struggling Together: Jie and Chiang after realizing they have to team up and fight off one final wave of 50-odd mooks.
- You Killed My Father: As it turns out, it was actually Chiang who killed Jie's father halfway through the film, for his own personal reasons. Ultimately subverted because unlike most examples, Jie didn't pursue a personal vendetta with Chiang because Chiang did saved his life.